Why are broadband coverage maps so important? header image

Published: 7th Apr 2014

The subject of broadband was really hitting the headlines in the UK last week. This was due to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) delivering its latest verdict on the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project.

Its report was far from positive, with the organisation questioning whether the project is delivering value for taxpayers' money and suggesting the scheme has allowed BT to develop a monopoly, as it is the only broadband provider to have been granted funding through the initiative.

Another area in which the BDUK project was criticised is the lack of information that has been released regarding when and where the rollout of super-fast broadband is set to take place in certain parts of the country. 

This has been a controversial issue for a while now, as while people across the UK have been told around 90 per cent of their region will soon have access to an improved service, many don't know when this will happen or if they will fall into the minority set to miss out. 

Such a lack of information can be problematic for more than one reason. People who will not benefit from the rollout would be better off investing in alternative means of securing fast and reliable access such as satellite broadband, but it is difficult to make this decision without first knowing if they will be part of the BDUK project or not.

It also becomes an issue for individuals who are looking to move house. People naturally want a property in an area that will have a good level of connectivity, but the lack of detail about the BDUK scheme makes it difficult to know if this is the case in some areas.

The shortage of information can also cause problems for other broadband providers. These companies may be able to step in and cover the areas not undertaken by BT, but it's hard for them to make plans without more specific details about where BDUK will be taking place. 

The ideal way for the BDUK coverage information to be displayed is through interactive maps. However, these have not been released in many areas and where they have been published there have been criticisms regarding a lack of detail.

A perfect example of this is in Cumbria. A map for the super-fast rollout in the region has been published, but there are complaints it does not contain sufficient detail to help people pinpoint their exact location. For example, it is not possible to search for a property by postcode. 

Part of the reason for the furore surrounding BDUK coverage maps is that there is uncertainty about who exactly is responsible for sharing this information. BT has been accused of holding the details back for commercial gain, but the company has claimed it is actually up to local authorities whether the maps are published or not.

Whoever is responsible for the lack of information, the debate about broadband coverage maps can be expected to continue to roll on until more detailed maps become available.